USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Hotel’
Legends

Irma Hotel ghost story

My friend Jace grew up in Cody, Wyoming, a town named for the folk hero “Buffalo Bill” Cody. He gave me the following description of the purportedly haunted Irma Hotel:

“So apparently this was like, the first hotel ever built in Cody. And it was named after one of Buffalo Bill’s daughters who died when she was a kid; it’s called the Irma Hotel or whatever. And then apparently, I think it was like, some, like some important person within the state came to visit and ended up like, dying or being murdered in his hotel room. Like being- being shot with like a- one of those muskets or whatever. And then uh, so I don’t know, apparently he’s just supposed to like, haunt the whole hotel ’cause he wasn’t a good guy. Uh and then also Buffalo Bill himself uh, is supposed to haunt the hotel. There are reports of waitresses seeing people in dining booths, but then when they go over they’re not there, or seeing people- like the the people that clean the rooms seeing people like, walking around the hallways.”

This legend is deeply linked not only to the town in which it is meant to have taken place, but particularly to Buffalo Bill Cody himself. The incorporation of Buffalo Bill into folklore like this piece contribute to his status as a legendary figure and folk hero–someone who certainly existed, but whose identity is shrouded in unsubstantiated stories due to his widespread exaltation. This particular legend weaves together supernatural, patriotic (in the form of folk hero celebration), and local themes.

Humor
Narrative
Tales /märchen

“When the Log Rolls Over We Will All Be Dead”

“Ok, this one: on the 13th floor, there is a room—said to be haunted—they can never rent it out to anyone, because anyone who does rent it out… dies. One day, a very rich man, well dressed, comes up to the counter and says, ‘I need a room for the night.’ And he says, ‘I’m sorry sir, we’re all booked up, the only room we have is room 13 and it’s haunted.’ The rich man says, ‘pfftttt, I’m not afraid of ghosts.’ Rents the room and, uh, goes up  to get ready for bed. He goes up and changes his jacket and pajamas, and he hears: ‘if the log rolls over we will all be dead!’ The man is petrified, and he jumps out the window, lands in the street and dies.”

“A couple weeks later, a very rich woman comes to the hotel and says ‘I need to rent a room.’ The man behind the counter says, ‘I’m sorry ma’am, we have no rooms to rent except room 13 and it’s haunted. One man died in that room a couple weeks ago.’ The woman says, ‘Pffftt, I’m not afraid.’ And she goes and rents the room. She’s just about to go to the bathroom and rent a shower and she hears: ‘If the log rolls over we will al be dead!’ She is so scared, she runs out the door, down the stairs, and out the lobby and into the street and she gets hit by a taxi and dies.

“A couple week later… a rather common man comes to the hotel… shabby dress, not a lot of money… he very well may have been living off the street. He goes to the counter and says, ‘I’d like to rent a room.’ The man says, ‘I’m sorry sir, we’re all booked up except for room 13 and it’s haunted. Two people have died there in the last month.’ The man says, ‘I’m not afraid.’ He goes and rents the room. He’s about to take a shower, and he hears: ‘If the log rolls over we will al be dead!’ Instead of being scared, he thinks, ‘that sounds like it came from the bathroom.’ He goes to the shower: nothing there. He hears it again: ‘If the log rolls over we will al be dead!’ He thinks, ‘is that coming from the taps?’ He goes to the sink: nothing there. He hears it again: ‘If the log rolls over we will al be dead!’ And he thinks, ‘That couldn’t be coming from the toilet?’ And he goes to the toilet: nothing there. He looks into the tank of the toilet: nothing there. Finally, he opens the lid. He sees a huge log of shit just floating in the water, and about a dozen ants perched on that log of shit, and every so often, the ants perch their heads up and chant: ‘If the log rolls over we will al be dead!’”

 

The informant is not sure where it comes from, but thinks his sister, who was around ten at the time they began making a ritual of telling this story around campfires (the informant was around six) learned it from her Girl Scout troop. At least once every camping trip since the first it’s retold. He likes it because they thought it to be hilarious, and they could also recite it from memory after the first time they heard it. He finds humor the fact that the rich people and the poor man just distract from the joke. He also likes the visual produced by the final scene (the informant says he imagines it as a single frame comic strip with the ants on a log and a speech bubble).

The structure of this story is so memorable it makes it extremely easy to retell. The groups of three (the right man, rich woman, and poor man; the three recitations of the “log rolls over…”), which occur frequently in folklore originating in Europe may be a result of their being so memorable. The repetition that occurs in the dialogue also makes it easier to remember, but perhaps what makes it so sticky is that the real joke of the story has almost nothing to do with the lengthy set up (which in itself is funny because it’s completely unexpected).

Legends
Narrative

Empire Hotel Marquee Ghost

The theater in my hometown is several hundred years old, from back when uh Salisbury, North Carolina used to be one of the centers of the state economy. There were a lot of famous actors that went there. Charlie Chaplin went there. Sarah Bernhardt went there, and other stage actors. And the legend has it that there was a passageway that went under the theater, under the street, to the hotel across the way where they would stay. It was called the Empire Hotel. And, um, I went down there one time. It’s sealed off.
Apparently there at one time was a secret passage. People have told me a lot of different things. It could have been an air conditioning shaft. But it was structurally unsound so it’s gone. But they say that the big stars went under there to the hotel. I’ve been in both places.
One time I was in the Empire Hotel. I was—I don’t know if I believe in ghosts or not! But I know I heard one. You’ll understand what I mean if you have too. I was on the third floor of this Empire Hotel after filming, it was Halloween night, I know that sounds really cheesy, buuuuut, I was looking around, just taking pictures for the heck of it, it was really dark, it’s abandoned now, so it’s completely empty, and I got the keys from the manager of the city. When from downstairs, the bottom of the staircase in the back came this like, “meaerrrrrrrrgh!” Like groaning sound. Ha, how are you gonna type that? Um it happened twice. I was with a friend and we both heard it, and we were both just like frozen in terror. And, um, then he was scared out of his mind and I was like let’s go downstairs and check this out. And we did. And we didn’t see anything there except this old, like, boiler, coal room.
But then we asked this sort of living-legend guy Clyde, who has no last name in our town, what that was and he told us it was a certain ghost whose name I don’t remember, who used to stand on his head on the marquee of the theater. Uh, that’s all I know about him.

This is a ghost story FOAF that I, for one, will be spreading. It is a ghost story based upon the town’s rich history. The ghost is apparently known to haunt the Empire Hotel. The hotel is actually infamous for its paranormal activity, as is the town of Salisbury, and the ghost Clyde tells my friend about it not the only ghost known to inhabit the Empire Hotel. Ghost stories are popular about the Empire, because it is an old place where a lot of history took place. Besides, old abandoned buildings are always disturbing—especially on Halloween night. The story gives importance to, and knowledge of the town’s rich history. While in America, especially, such creepy events are likely to be interpreted as ghosts, my friend and his pal might have interpreted the strange sound differently if they were from another culture. They also probably would not have suspected it was a ghost if they had heard the sound during the day, in a different building, and not on Halloween night.

Legends

Urban Legend: A Dead Body Hidden in a Hotel Mattress

 “Once there was a couple who decided to get away for a couple days.  They decided to stay at a motel and as soon as they entered their room, it smelled horrible, like maybe a rat died in there.  So, they complained to the front desk, but the concierge assured them that the room was just cleaned and the cleaning staff and even the previous occupant never complained about a smell.  The couple then asked to switch rooms, but the motel was in the middle of nowhere and completely booked.  There was nothing they could do about it, so they started to track down the smell for themselves.  The smell was coming from somewhere near the bed.  They looked under it, behind it, behind the bedside tables and still couldn’t locate the smell.  Finally, they decided just to check underneath the mattress.  When they pushed the mattress off, the found a rotting human body in the box spring.  The body was there for days, maybe weeks until it was found.”

 

My informant is from Pasadena, California and first heard the story when she was in grade school in the 1990s.  She heard it from her friends at school and also saw it in a comic book version of urban legends that she read when she was younger.  While researching this story, it turns out the story is very popular.  My informant’s version is very similar to other’s I came across online.  All the stories involve a couple, a foul smell, a search to find the smell and the discovery of the body.  However, other versions include different descriptions: the couple is on their honeymoon, the story takes place in Las Vegas, the cleaning staff cleans the room while the couple is off sightseeing (but the smell remains when they return) and sometimes there is no complaint, just a discovery.  The story of the body in the mattress has many different versions, but nonetheless, is the same story.

The most surprising and interesting discovery I made during my research was the fact that the exact same incident occurred at a Travelodge in Pasadena, CA in July 1996!  I first found this information on Snopes.com, which prides with the statement: “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.”  According to Snopes.com, the motel staff discovered a woman’s body ten days after her murder after multiple complaints from occupants.  In another source, the body was found by a Honolulu native, while she and her brother were on vacation (“The Body in the Bed”).  Although unreliable sources, the two websites illustrate common variants found in folklore.  In order to really confirm the urban legend from Pasadena, I went to the City of Pasadena’s online archive.  The archive only publishes the headlines of newspapers, but the title “Body found in motel room identified: Woman, 23, is named using dental records,” dated to August 2, 1996, verified this story.  The urban legend was most likely a popular story already, so the incident may have simply been a reenactment of the legend.  Furthermore, the event may have also revived the story, which is why my informant heard it while in grade school during the 1990s.

 

Emery, David. “The Body in The Bed.” About.com Urban Legends. 20 Apr. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/crime/a/body_in_bed.htm>.

Sharfstein, Daniel. “Body Found in Motel Room Identified : Woman, 23, Is Named Using Dental Records.” Pasadena Public Library. City of Pasadena. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/Library/PNI/pniAuthor.asp?page=1&pagesize=100&showAll=&calltype=sort&searchtype=&Pattern=&sortOn=subject&sqlQuery=qauthor+%27%25sharfstein%2C+daniel%25%27>.

“The Bawdy Under the Bed.” Snopes.com. 18 Mar. 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://www.snopes.com/horrors/gruesome/bodybed.asp>.

general

Phoenix’s Hotel San Carlos

The storyteller was a USC student from the city of Scottsdale, Arizona, near the larger city of Phoenix. She grew up in Scottsdale and before that, Minnesota, and is from a European, Caucasian background. This ghost story was collected around sunset, in my bedroom.

Me: So where did you hear this ghost story?

K: Uhm, from my friend who came back from one our school trips. She told me at school. *Long pause*

Me: Ok, you can go ahead and tell the story now.

K: Oh, ok….uhm, so, every year my theater club, we take a trip downtown for a convention and we stay in this old historic hotel.

Me: Downtown where?

K: Phoenix. Yea, its called the Hotel San Carlos and it was built in like, the late 20s? And it was this really nice hotel for stars to come if they came to the desert, like Marilyn Monroe has a room named after her and so does Clark Gabel….and all that jazz. But, uhm, I guess, a year, like, according to legend, a year after it was built one of the hotel workers, Leone I think it was? She was “pushed” out the, I think, I don’t know what story but it was pretty high up. She was pushed out, died, and so apparently her ghost wanders the halls of the hotel. And yea, and there’s also apparently this little girl who will go around and nobody knows what her story is but guests will say that she comes into their room and they hear this little girl crying. And you can see her sitting at the edge of the bed or in a chair in your room. And apparently, they think that she is a ghost of a kid that used to go to a school that was on the property before the hotel was built, who probably died in this huge flu epidemic. So my friend was staying there and she told me that both nights they slept in the hotel, she would wake up in the middle of the night and she would hear people getting ready in her room, and she’d hear voices. So she turned on the light and all of her roommates were still sleeping, and nobody was there, so she went back to sleep. Then she heard it again, so she went to the bathroom, and their bathtub was running. So she freaked out, turned it off, and went back to bed. And the second time it happened, the water started running again, and so she woke up her friend, and they both went and checked it out and turned it off. And they stayed up a long time, waiting for the ghosts. But they didn’t see anything, they just kept hearing these noises, and then I thought when I stayed there that something would happen, but nothing did…so….

Me: So do you think it was a ghost?

K: I don’t know, I don’t believe in ghosts so I really don’t know. Uhm yea, that’s about it.

This ghost story falls in one of the classic categories of ghost stories, in which the ghosts’ motives are driven by their untimely or un-respectful death. Leone and a little girl supposedly haunt because of the way they died, unfairly and untimely. The storyteller claimed that she didn’t believe in ghosts, yet she stated that she had thought she would see something when she stayed at the hotel. She didn’t clarify whether she expected to see ghosts, or some sort of optical illusion. Had she been told the story in a different setting, rather than at school in a casual setting, she might have a better chance of believing the story to some extent. Also, if she had told me the story in a darker, later setting she might have had more belief and enthusiasm in her tone.

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